Our experience from working with groups shows that community asset projects have a greater chance of succeeding if there are ‘Project Champions’; people prepared to take on the role of promoting the project to people outside your group and developing good partnerships with them. They will also be the people who can motivate everyone in your team to work together to achieve the project objectives.
A good champion will look to ensure the right support is provided at the right time to the organisation that wants to take ownership of an asset and be able to liaise with its current owner. In practice this might involve clarifying problems and uncovering solutions to these. It will also be about acknowledging the value of the different skills and input that each person brings to the project, so as to ensure that they stay involved and committed.
It is important to note that a good leader doesn’t ‘do’ everything; instead they need to be skilled at co-ordinating and supporting others to fulfill their roles, and to build a strong team where everyone's input is valued and recognised.
It is important that everyone involved in the project can agree on one person who will take responsibility for communicating with those inside and outside the organisation, motivating the team, and mobilising resources in support of the project.
Before you get started, it’s a good idea to check whether or not your group has the skills and experience required to successfully manage your community asset project. This is known as a Skills Assessment Analysis or Capacity Needs Analysis. Carrying out this analysis at an early stage will help you to identify what skills you have on board and which you may need to develop or recruit into the team.
Capacity Needs Analysis – what skills have we got, and what others do we need
A Capacity Needs Analysis is particularly important for organisations getting involved in an asset project for the first time. Managing a capital build programme, for example, requires different skills to running a community group or operating services. You should identify any skills gaps in your team at the outset and at intervals during the pre-development phase of your project (i.e. before the construction period starts).
Look at your project objectives and initial assessment then, when you have one, your business plan. Think about what skills are needed to deliver the project according to the plan. Put together a list of skills areas (legal, financial, marketing, operations etc.) and under each the kinds of experience that you will need (managed a construction project, obtained financing etc.)
Everyone has a skill they can contribute. It might not be a "professional" skill but having those who are good at welcoming and including people, who are happy to make the coffee and bake a cake, who don't mind being behind the scenes are all equally vital and important for the success of a project.
- Get an outside opinion. Find someone who has completed similar projects before. They should be able to provide an independent check that you have considered all the necessary skills and experience needed. An outsider will also be useful in evaluating the results with a critical eye.
- Check the skills in the group. Once you know what skills and experience you need, check this against those of your volunteers and staff have. You can ask them to complete a self-assessment form (attached at the bottom of this page) or assess each other (peer-assessment). Then collate the results and identify any skills areas you need to develop or recruit into the team. Discuss this process with volunteers and any staff to ensure they are comfortable with the process and do not feel threatened.
- Discuss the results within the team or your committee/board and make decisions about how to resolve any skills gaps. This may involve recruiting new volunteers or staff, providing training or mentoring for existing staff and volunteers, or appointing contractors.
- Think creatively. Where significant skills gaps exist, think of creative ways forward. Consider starting with smaller projects that might meet some of your project objectives, in order to build up confidence and experience. Reach out to potential partners who may be able to assist in areas where your team has a skills gap.
- Developing/head hunting skills. Do not see skills gaps as impenetrable obstacles. There are many ways in which skills can be developed or leveraged. Similarly, keep your capacity needs analysis broad; there is no need to detail every skill needed for every element of your project. It is important to remain flexible, look at all the options for bringing on board the skills you need, and make an informed decision about what is best for your project and organisation.
What to avoid
- Do not avoid issues or paper over cracks. It is better to identify gaps sooner rather than later. An honest and thorough process improves your chances of success and boosts your credibility with funders and partners.
- Avoid a process that seems threatening to people. Taking on and developing an asset can seem a daunting change. Reassure everyone that a capacity needs analysis is being conducted to ensure the organisation is well placed to succeed. If done right, it will reduce the stress as the development moves forward, as individuals are not asked to carry out tasks they are ill-equipped for.
- Be open about your orgnaisation’s support needs. Try not to keep partners in the dark. Gaps in your group’s skills or experience will become apparent to them in the long run anyway so it is better for you to get them out in the open. Partners may be able to present solutions that you have not considered.